Bob MacIntyre living American dream but won't turn his back on European Tour
Bob MacIntyre, Scottish sport’s man of the moment, has vowed to remain loyal to his roots no matter what happens in his career on the back of him producing the best Masters debut by a player from the home of golf in the modern era.
On the back of his 12th-place finish at Augusta National on Sunday, the 24-year-old from Oban is edging close to securing affiliate membership of the lucrative PGA Tour, having earned $287,954 in his five starts on the US circuit in the 2020-21 wraparound season.
That would have left him handily-placed on the PGA Tour money-list standings if he was a full member, with MacIntyre likely to secure more starts on the other side of the Atlantic later in the year, probably starting in between next month’s US PGA Championship and the US Open at Torrey Pines.
While a self-confessed home bird, the left-hander has been enjoying his time in the US, where he had a spell at McNeese State University in Louisiana before turning professional, but has no intention to play full-time on the PGA Tour in the future.
Francesco Molinari, the 2018 Open Championship winner, and former Scottish Open champion Alex Noren both play most of their golf these days in America, but, for MacIntyre, it will be about splitting his time between two circuits as much as possible.
“This is the top end of the game,” he said of a spell in the States that, in addition to The Masters, has also included two WGCs, The Players Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and is continuing this week as he tees up in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head in South Carolina.
“The last five events I’ve played have been top of the tree events. They are not just any old golf tournament. This is where you want to be. It’s the only way you’ll get better by playing against guys who are better than you and practising with guys who are better.
“It raises your game, you are more alert, you are more aware of what’s going on. Stoddy and me speak about it. If I do get a PGA Tour card – and I’ll need to hit certain targets to achieve that – but we are not just going to play the PGA Tour.
“I was raised in Scotland, the European Tour is where my career has moved forward from. You’ll never forget where you’re from and you’ll never forget where the opportunities came from. I’ll always play the European Tour.
“Obviously I’d play PGA Tour if I get my card, but we talk about the Tommy Fleetwood schedule. It’s the ‘Tommy schedule’. You can play both sides and compete and that’s what I want to be doing.”
Sandy Lyle finished 48th on his Masters debut in 1980 before becoming the first British player to claim a Green Jacket eight years later while Colin Montgomerie tied for 37th as a first-timer in 1992.
More recently, Paul Lawrie missed the cut on his Augusta debut in 2000 before tying for 15th three years later while Stephen Gallacher finished joint-34th on his first appearance in 2014 - the year he went on to play in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
“It’s been unbelievable,” admitted MacIntyre as the dust settled on the best debut by a Scot in the event since Willie MacFarlane and MacDonald Smith finished sixth and joint-seventh respectively in the inaugural staging in 1934.
“It’s where you dream of playing as a wee kid and to put in a decent performance and get myself in next time is what we play for. Other than winning, you want to get back next year.”
The 2019 European Tour Rookie of the Year achieved that goal by holing a putt on the 72nd green similar to Lyle’s winning one in 1988, having earlier made a brilliant birdie-2 at the 12th in the final round.
“It was just one of those days, a rollercoaster again, it’s how I play golf,” he said of his closing circuit, which had started with a bogey before running up a double-bogey 5 at the sixth following a three-putt from inside ten feet.
“I knew that top 12 gets you back next year but the leaderboard only had the top 10, so I knew I was outside of that,” he added of his position coming up the last. “After the bogeys on 16 and 17, I thought I’d made a mess of it, so I knew I needed something on the last.
“I thought my second shot was absolutely perfect, but it was a wee bit further away than I thought. We’ve seen Sergio [Garcia] hit that putt, seen so many guys hit it, we knew it moved. It was going in a bit hot, but the hole was there to stop it!”
When fellow left-hander Brian Harman was unable to match that closing birdie around 20 minutes later, it was time to celebrate a great week’s work. “I had actually just done a TV interview and I knew Brian Harman was on 18,” he said.
“The guy had two TVs, one of them on the 18th, and I was watching that. My dad, Stoddy [Iain Stoddart], Mike (Thompson, his caddie) and everyone else were outside not knowing what’s going on.
‘When Harman missed the putt, I just said: “See you next year, lads!” I opened the door, ran straight out – and they didn’t know, my dad still had the binoculars out, trying to see what was happening.
“I just ran up and jumped on Mikey’s back, giving everyone high fives. The minute you play one of these, you don’t want to miss another one. To guarantee my spot for next year is absolutely brilliant.”